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Sexually Transmitted Disease (STDs) FAQs

What are STD’s?

STD's are infections that people can get by having sex with someone who is infected. There are many different kinds of STD's. You may have heard of
Chlamydia, herpes, HPV, syphilis and gonorrhea. There are many other kinds as well. STD's are much more common than you think.

Anyone who has sex can get an STD, and it can be transmitted through vaginal, anal or oral sex.

  • You can get an STD even if you have sex just once.
  • You can get the same STD more than once.
  • You can have more than one STD at a time.
  • The only sure way to protect yourself is not to have sex
  • STD's can be passed WITHOUT ejaculation
  • STD's can be passed even with no actual penetration during sex
  • STD's can be passed even when there are no signs or symptoms
  • Some STD's can be passed to or from the mouth or throat during oral sex (Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes)

What can happen if I get an STD?

STD's can make you unable to have children, cause birth defects or diseases in babies. Some STD's are painful. A few can even kill you. Most STD's, syphilis, gonorrhea, or Chlamydia can be cured if treated right away. Others, like HIV, HPV or herpes, cannot be cured.

How can I tell if my partner has an STD?

Most of the time, you can't tell if someone has an STD by looking at them. A person can look healthy and still have an STD. And you can't always tell by asking them – a person can have an STD and not know it!

What should I watch out for?

You should get checked if:
  • You had sex without a condom.
  • You think your partner had sex with someone else.
  • You have had sex with more than one person.
  • Get a check-up right away, if you feel or see any of these signs:
  • Burning or pain while urinating
  • Unusual discharge or smell from the vagina or penis
  • Itching, burning, or pain around the vagina or penis.

How would you protect yourself from getting an STD?

Use a condom every time you have sex. Latex or polyurethane (plastic) condoms are best. Now there are condoms for women to use too. Condoms for men fit over the man's penis. Condoms for women are inserted vaginally. You can buy condoms in a grocery store or drugstore.

Birth control methods, other than condoms, will not protect you from STD's. Use a condom (for men or women) along with your birth control method.

It is safest to have sex with only one person who only has sex with you. If either of you have sex with other people, you can get STD's. The more people that you or your partner have sex with, the more likely that you will get an STD.

There are ways to be close without sharing body fluids (semen, vaginal fluids or blood). Hugging and touching are safer than sex because no fluids are shared.

If you or your partner has sores or bumps around the vagina, penis or mouth, don't have sex or touch the sores. Get a check-up and wait until the clinic says it is safe.

Don't mix sex with alcohol or other drugs. This can lead you to take risks that you might not take if you were not under the influence.

Don't have sex when it isn't right for you. It's your body and your choice whether or not to have sex. Decide ahead of time what is right for you.

If you have an STD, how should you take care of yourself.

  • Get treated. Finish taking all of your medicine. Don't stop even if you feel better.
  • Ask your partner(s) to get checked. Although it can be hard to say something, they need to know so they can get tested. The nurse can give you a partner notification letter.
  • Don't have sex until you and your partner are cured or your clinic tells you it is safe.
  • Use a condom and spermicide when you have sex.
  • Learn more about STD's. Talk to your doctor or clinic nurse.
  • Before you have sex, talk to your partner about using condoms.

    Talking to your partner about using condoms may not be easy for you. Think about what you want to say ahead of time. You may even want to practice with a friend.

    You can talk about it in many ways. Find a way that works for you. Here are some ideas:

  • "I'd really like to have sex with you as long as we use condoms. Using condoms protects both of us."
  • "You know, it makes sex even better for me knowing that both of us are protected. Let's use condoms"
  • "Did you see that TV show about HIV last night? It seems like everyone needs to use condoms these days."
    Contact Us

    Riverside County Department of Public Health
    HIV/STD Program
    P.O. Box 7600
    Riverside, CA 92513-7600

    (951) 358-5307 Voice
    (951) 358-5407 Fax
    (800) 243-7275 Hotline
    (800) STD-FACTS